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Adobe look to ‘Webtop’ software future?

As the web evolves, so do the working practices of those that make their living, or manage their lives there. And so do the ambitions of those ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) who see the web as the new medium through which their applications will work and hopefully thrive…

Webtop as the new Desktop

Making their intentions known at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Adobe Chief Executive Bruce Chizen outlined his vision of how Adobe will move their formidable portfolio of largely creative software applications to the web:

“The desktop is a powerful, powerful machine in which to run applications. Broadband, as quick as it gets, is still going to have some limitations in the short term, …”

He was asked if Adobe currently make any money from ad-supported applications:

“A very tiny amount today via a hosted application called Premiere Express … Our Adobe Media Player [now in beta] is also an ad-based business model.”

Which is encouraging for me personally, as I’m working (on / off, I might add) on a long-running web applications project for the creative market. The plan is to allow people to choose between ad-supported, one-off fee or a monthly subscription.

So having Adobe dignify this model helps a great deal, especially within the remit of a conversation with a potential investor.

The thing is, while I’m pitching at more or less the same crowd, I’m doing so with a totally different class of application. In a recent Digg post regarding Adobe’s announcement, I was drawn into commenting thus:

“This isn’t exactly ground-breaking news, but it is telling of Adobe’s thinking, none the less. And as Chizen acknowledges, ‘net access is the bottleneck right now. However, I’m not still not convinced that monthly fees are the way to go, unless there’s some serious material and financial benefits to going in that direction. I’m a designer and I just don’t get the monthly fee model. So if I’m in anyway representative of the creative crowd, Adobe might have a tough sell…”

In the defense of Adobe, this move to the web isn’t going to happen over night, so they’ve got time to get their market positioning just right.

Adobe Creative Suite to embrace software as a service?

In a Q&A with Adobe’s Chizen regarding their web applications ambitions, Juan Carlos Perez of IDG News Service put forward a key question:

IDGNS: Will there come a time when your full-featured products will be offered as a hosted, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model? Chizen: Yes, but over time. To benefit from a full-featured version of Photoshop, the experience as a hosted application wouldn’t be very good, and that’s because of bandwidth speeds.”

Of all the applications, Adobe Photoshop is the one that would be the most difficult to shoe-horn into / onto the web.

“IDGNS: Do you agree the future of software delivery is that SaaS/hosted model? Chizen: Eventually. The key is how long does that take. It depends on the application and on broadband capabilities. I’m smart enough to say that will be in 20 years probably.”

But not young enough to see it through to maturity. And besides, I’m willing to admit I’m probably not as smart as Bruce Chizen, but I’m more than willing to bet my pound to his penny that the Software-as-a-Service business model will be here in less than half that time.

The Q&A makes for an interesting read, but there’s a lack of detail in places, which is probably either deliberate, or because this particular flavour of prognostication is still up there in the magical ether of theory or R&D:

“You’ll see us do hybrid applications that take advantage of the desktop, but where appropriate we’ll provide hosted functionality for things like sharing. Our Kuler [web-hosted application] lets people collaborate using different color settings, [and works in conjunction with] producs like Illustrator, which resides on the desktop.”

If you’ve used Adobe’s Kuler colour selector, then you’ll know that it’s a horrible example of a web application to hold up against Photoshop in that way.

I’m struggling to see the benefits of moving all of Adobe’s software in web applications, even if only partially adapting certain applications as Chizen alludes to. Such applications as Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects are applications that rely on uninterrupted access to data and are very resource intensive, which the web simply doesn’t lend itself to.

In their favour, Adobe already has various graphics server solutions, which they would argue would be their very own creative digital hub of sorts, such things would probably form the added-value aspect of their Software-as-a-Service offering.

And, with a little help from Flash & Flex, Adobe is edging into Microsoft territory with their own word processor, web-based of course. All of which bolsters their PDF technology while annoying Microsoft, an incidental benefit.

The long-term web play

These are strategies that will no doubt bear fruit in the coming years, where Adobe either release details or products on their own time, or as a result of market forces.

As I said earlier, this isn’t ground-breaking news, but we are offered a glimpse into a world where our activities on the web will be so major and all-pervasive, that to large extent, the web and the internet will just vanish under the varnish & veneer or “webtop” RIA’s (Rich Internet Applications) that merge seamlessly with their desktop brethren…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Adobe look to ‘Webtop’ software future?”

How much long is the Adobe dinosaur gonna last? Internally, they are a mess since the macromedia merger and there is no “strategy” other than to figure out how to stay alive while the rest of the world passes them by. If you own stock, sell now.

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